February 25th, 2011 | by Anthony F. Jahn

I Don’t Have Time to Rest My Voice


Be a sleuth and discover the behaviours that made you need to rest your voice in the first place…

Dear Doctor Jahn,

I’ve heard so many singers and coaches speak about “vocal rest” But how do I “rest” my voice? No singing? No talking? No loud singing? Those all sound impossible options for me, given my schedule and obligations!

-Kerry

Dear Kerry,

There are many types of vocal rest. Absolute rest of course refers to not uttering a word.

Patients who have hemorrhaged into the vocal folds are advised to do this.

I tell such patients that the only thing they’re allowed to say is “The house is on fire!” – otherwise, complete silence.

A voiced whisper, by the way, is not a substitute for vocal rest.

Of course, absolute voice rest is punishingly difficult, and usually not necessary.

If you have a swelling of the vocal folds, modified vocal rest is the answer.

Do not sing, minimize speaking to situations where it is absolutely necessary.

Avoid social interactions, particularly in a noisy environment.

If necessary, speak one-on-one to someone, using a “confidential” voice.

This is an easier prescription, particularly in the age of computers and text messaging.

An even less difficult form of voice rest is to avoid singing with vocal strain.

For vocal performers this means, ideally, speaking in head voice, and avoiding belting or singing loud and high, and doing longer performances or multiple sets.

This is appropriate for singers with vocal nodules.

A few more things to understand about vocal rest: When you rest your voice for more than two days, the larynx begins to rise in the neck.

For classical singers this is an issue, since they are trained to keep the larynx low.

But even for non-classical singers, expect whatever laryngeal posturing you may have learned to revert to its pre-training, “natural” position.

So, coming off voice rest, give yourself some time to reposition your larynx in its “normal” singing posture.

Also, if you are using voice rest to reverse damage from chronic voice abuse, such as nodules, rest is not enough – you need to work on the technical problems that caused the damage in the first place.

Nodules may decrease or even disappear with voice rest, but will return quickly if you do not modify the vocal behavior that caused them in the first place.

Voice rest, then, can be absolute or relative.

While small periods of rest can work wonders, it is not a cure-all, and generally should not be recommended for more than a week at most.

Dr. Jahn

-Anthony F. Jahn, MD

Dr. Jahn welcomes your questions. You can send these to editor@voicecouncil.com

This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.

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  • Genial5966

    you know i have notice than the climate in my city has been getting quiet dry…I have also start using falsetto …(which i used earlier when i started singing, but i did with a pharyngeal..nose supported voice so there was no much air passing through my vocal chords..so due to this my vocal chords have this feeling of dryness..and even though i drink lots of water and use honey and warm up..i always have this feeling …never the less..i have been taking a relative vocal rest ..meaning that i have just train and sing withou adding pressure or straining.so should i keep it this way..or how can i solve my “dryness” issue?

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  • Anonymous

    I’m a bit confused. You say to speak in head voice when you have nodules. But isn’t head voice exactly where the problem is, as head voice is when the chords only lightly touch, meaning the nodule gets rubbed and irritated?

    Are you maybe using a different definition for head voice? Or is it maybe okay as long as you use the lower part?

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